A Monastic Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna
ON PILGRIMAGE IN SEARCH OF KRISHNA
THROUGH HER INTENSE, one-pointed sadhana in the spiritual atmosphere of the Himalayas, her love for Krishna ripened! That love now led her to Brindavan, the scene where the drama of Krishna's life had been enacted. Although she wanted to stay there longer, she was unable to, because a distant relative who lived in Brindavan had seen her. He sent a message to Calcutta and made plans to send her back. As soon as she learned of this, she felt obliged to leave Brindavan rather than return to her family.
Once she left Brindavan, she wandered through Rajasthan to Saurashtra. Along the way. she visited sev- eral holy places, including Pushkar, Prabhas, Sudampuri, and finally Dwarka, on the east coast in Saurashtra. It happens that the image of Sri Krishna at the Ranchodji Temple in Dwarka is particularly beautiful. Gauri Ma entered this temple just as the priests had finished offering food to the deity. She took her seat next to the shrine and began to do japa, when suddenly she saw a beautiful, dark-skinned child, who had just eaten something, standing within the shrine. He had not washed his hands or his niouth, and he stood there laughing. Gauri Ma wondered if perhaps in this part of the country the priest's children were permitted to eat in the shrine. If so, what a strange custom! Soon she saw the priest wash the child's hands, and then the child sat on the throne in the shrine. At this. Gauri Ma realized what she had seen. Filled with emotion, she immediately stopped her japa and rushed toward the shrine. Overwhelmed by this fleeting vision, she lay at the shrine entrance and began sobbing.
Meanwhile, as the priest was completing the food offering, he noticed the strange behavior of this unknown sannyasini. "What is the matter? What is the matter?" he repeated.
But what and how could she explain anything to this orthodox, tradition-bound man?
Thus, separated from her Krishna, this devotee of His was filled with restless yearning. Day and night she was haunted by just one thought: how could she be with Krishna again? Once again she turned her steps toward Brindavan.
Brindavan! Here, Gauri Ma felt the pangs of separation from Krishna very keenly. Sometimes she would sit at one place from sunrise to sunset absorbed in deep meditation. On such days she would not even pause to eat. On other days she would wander through the different temples of Brindavan and on the banks of the Jamuna searching for her dark-complexioned Krishna with the melodious flute. At other times she would go to a lonely place and sob bitterly: "Oh, Lord, the source of all mercy! For You I have given up my home and all the comforts of this life. Please bless me with a vision that would bring peace to my soul. Oh, merciful one! Please grant that vision!"
But her pathetic pleas proved futile. Gauri Ma resolved to leave once and for all. "I don't want this Brindavan. I will go some place far away. But where shall I go? With no vision of Krishna...It is better to end this burdensome life." One dark night, having decided to end her life. Gauri Ma proceeded toward the sacred pond Lalita. The next morning, some women from Brindavan found Gauri Ma's unconscious body in a fountain near the Lalita Pond. Those good women carried her to their own home. There, with love and devotion, they nursed her back to consciousness. No one knows exactly what happened at the pond. but Gauri Ma had a deep spiritual experience that night. After regaining consciousness, she no longer saw her life as burdensome.
Gauri Ma, feeling very peaceful now, continued to remain at Brindavan. One day, she met her uncle, Shyam Charan, who took her to his home where he showed her grief-filled letters from her mother, Giribala. After much effort, Shyam Charan finally persuaded Gauri Ma it was best to return to her mother, and he took her to Calcutta.
Unexpectedly meeting her daughter after such a long time, Giribala clasped her to her heart and wept. In a short while, many relatives and neighbors gathered around them. Their hearts overflowed with astonishment, respect, and joy. She could not stay for long in the company of friends and relatives, however, since she was a sannyasini, since she had renounced family and friends to follow a spiritual life. Promising to return quickly, she left for Jagannathpuri.
She then passed a few days in Jagannathpuri, Remuna, Sakshigopal, Bhuvaneshwar, and other holy places. The restlessness in her heart had now been replaced by peace. The loneliness of separation had now been replaced by the joy of fulfillment.
It was prior to this pilgrimage that Gauri Ma had met Balaram Babu's father, Sri Radharaman Bose, who had homes in Calcutta and Brindavan and a temple for Sri Krishna in Brindavan. Gauri Ma next went to visit this temple. She also visited the places associated with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu – Nadia and Navadwip – and spent many days there in divine joy. She believed, nay, she knew that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was an incarnation of Lord Krishna. Then she went to Kashi Benares. At Kashi she had the opportunity to meet a famous holy man, Trailanga Swami. Afterwards, she returned to Brindavan.
It was during this visit to Brindavan that Gauri Ma first met the great devotee of Sri Ramakrishna, Balaram Babu, the son of Radharaman Bose, and it was there that he first told her about Sri Ramakrishna, urging her to visit him. but to no avail.
Without telling anyone, Gauri Ma suddenly left Brindavan and proceeded to Rishikesh. Here, an old sadhu in whom she had great faith said to her one day, "Your mother is very ill in Calcutta and anxious to meet you. You should return to Calcutta."
It was her mother who had opened the door of spiritual life for Gauri Ma. Filled with a deep sense of obligation to Giribala, Gauri Ma therefore returned to Calcutta. Giribala's heart flooded with joy on seeing her daughter. As a result, her health soon began to improve. When Gauri Ma was certain her mother was back in good health, she left for Jagannathpuri once again.
During her travels, Gauri Ma faced many trials, sometimes because of her beauty. At Jagannathpuri a woman became greatly devoted to her, but her husband was physically attracted to Gauri Ma and repeatedly asked his wife to invite her to stay in their home. Not suspecting what was on her husband's mind, the wife, with great devotion, requested Gauri Ma to come and stay with them for a few days. Seeing the woman's intense desire, Gauri Ma went with her to her home.
By chance that evening Gauri Ma had an upset stomach. It was her practice to bolt the door from inside before sleeping, and she always kept a knife under her pillow. Since she had awakened several times that night because of her indigestion and since it was almost morning, she felt she wouldn't sleep anymore, so as she lay down, she didn't rebolt the door. Having been awake much of the night, however, she soon dozed off.
Seeing his opportunity, with his mind full of wicked thoughts, the husband softly crept into her room. in the darkness he accidentally stepped on her hair. Immediately, she awakened. At this, he ran out of the room. In a flash Gauri Ma understood everything. Wielding her knife she began running after him, intending to punish severely this animalistic man. Frightened, he bolted out of the house. Assuming the terrible aspect of Chandi, Gauri Ma pursued him, knife in hand. It was now daylight. Seeing them sprinting down the road, a crowd collected. Immediately understanding what had happened, they began to beat up the man. Even so, Gauri Ma came running up with the knife in her hand. Finally, one woman caught hold of her and calmed her. The people gathered there were astonished and impressed by her bravery and her love for purity.
It was also at Jagannathpuri that Gauri Ma met Harikrishna Mukhopadhyaya, who, like Balaram Bose, wanted her to meet Sri Ramakrishna. When he came to know her well, he said to her. "Mother, I have seen a person at Dakshineswar, a very unusual person, overflowing with love and knowledge, always in samadhi. He is beyond description!" Again, however, Gauri Ma did not see how her steps were being directed.